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North Korean Launch Tests Chinese Diplomacy

The United Nations Security Council is delaying its formal response to North Korea's July 5 missile tests, as diplomats give China time to persuade its longtime ally to cooperate. The tests are challenging China's credibility as an effective diplomatic broker.

Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, the top U.S. negotiator with North Korea, is headed back to Washington after a week of shuttle diplomacy in Asia.

He said that despite China's best diplomatic efforts, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, as the country is formally known, still refuses to cooperate regarding its missile tests and nuclear programs.

"The Chinese sent a good delegation up to Pyongyang, with a real interest in trying to work with the DPRK," Hill said. "But it does not appear to have been reciprocated."

The delegation's visit was scheduled before the missile tests. The group, due back in Beijing on Saturday, includes China's top nuclear negotiator. He is meeting with his North Korean counterpart.

China is urging Pyongyang to return to multilateral talks on its nuclear programs and resume a moratorium on missile tests. But at a press briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Jiang Yu warned against pinning all expectations on Beijing.

South Korean diplomacy hasn't fared much better. In Seoul today, North Korean officials walked out of cabinet-level talks with the South and refused its requests to discuss the missile tests.

North Korea has little time for its Asian neighbors, experts say, because it's desperately staking its survival on a one-on-one game of nuclear brinksmanship with the United States.

Failing a last-minute breakthrough by the Chinese in Pyongyang, the matter will return to the U.N. Security Council, whose members will have to forge a united response to North Korea's missile launches.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Anthony Kuhn is NPR's correspondent based in Seoul, South Korea, reporting on the Korean Peninsula, Japan, and the great diversity of Asia's countries and cultures. Before moving to Seoul in 2018, he traveled to the region to cover major stories including the North Korean nuclear crisis and the Fukushima earthquake and nuclear disaster.
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